Albert Espinosa

Albert Espinosa is very much the man of the day. He combines the off-beat humour evocative of Edward Lear whose bicentenary is celebrated this weekend, with a fascinating story of cancer survival which is celebrated with last night’s Moon Walk and today’s first (Aberystwyth, Wales) of a series of ‘Race for Life’ events.

Ha ha, I’m a cancer joker with 4.7 lives” Sunday Times piece (paywalled) by Matthew Campbell chronicles author and comedian Albert Espinosa and his lighthearted take on this heavy subject…

  • “’I wasn’t expecting any of it,’ he says. ‘I always thought I would die much younger — so I’m living on extra time really. It’s total happiness.’ He limps slightly but otherwise you would not know he has a false limb. An affable figure with straw-coloured hair and big brown eyes, he has a gentle demeanour and pleasant smile, even as he recalls what he lived through. It sounds like hell. But Espinosa at times appears almost nostalgic about his hospital years. ‘It was also a happy time for me,’ he says. He had cancer from the age of 14 to 24 and in that decade went through multiple horrors from operations to chemotherapy, the amputation of his leg and then the loss of part of his liver and a lung. He also lost several close friends to the disease. How could it have been fun? For one thing, he was not alone. Hospitals breed the same bonding relationships as battlefields and he forged close friendships with other cancer-stricken children. For another, amazingly, he managed to keep laughing. He says the only day when they behaved like really sick children was Christmas Day. ‘We all knew that was the day the Barcelona football players came to visit us and they always gave a signed football to the kid who appeared to be the sickest,’ he says. ‘So that day we all stayed in our beds with the blanket pulled up to our chins, trying to look as weak as possible.’ He goes on: ‘I think my greatest achievement was not beating four types of cancer: it was putting on the world’s sickest face so that Gary Lineker gave me a football.’ Espinosa was born an optimist, obviously. Humour, he says, has helped him to cope: ‘I always say that humour helps to explain everything and it helps us in any situation.’..One of the lessons is that every loss is accompanied by unexpected gains… Espinosa cannot believe his luck. ‘It’s like a dream,’ he says. ‘I’ve gone straight from a small hospital room to the big screen.’ It reminds him of one of the things he learnt in hospital: ‘The luck you have in being alive.’”

On the subject of laughing at cancer in the face (including a choice scene on embracing the hair loss in perhaps not as quite an elegant fashion as possible), I also highly recommend the film 50/50.